Women can face many different kinds of discrimination and harassment on the job. Some women are subjected to sexual harassment in the form of advances made by supervisors or co-workers. Pregnant women may find that their employer refuses to accommodate them or tries to push them out of their job.

If you have successfully completed your maternity leave and returned to work, you may think that the worst risk for discrimination is behind you. Unfortunately, lactating or breastfeeding mothers often face discrimination from their employers who don’t want to accommodate their workers in the way that they should.

An employer may resist giving even unpaid breaks to a worker

Under federal law, lactating mothers have the right to take as many unpaid breaks as are necessary for them to express milk.

Whether they have on-site childcare that allows them to nurse their child or a pump that allows them to express milk and then store it until they return home, these breaks help ensure that a mother’s milk supply stays constant and prevents her from experiencing discomfort or leakage due to milk production.

Although these breaks can overlap with existing breaks, including meal breaks, some employers resent letting their workers take time off of the job, even if it is to address a pressing medical need.

Some bosses don’t want to provide a woman with a private space

Another way that a company can discriminate against a lactating woman involves refusing to provide her with a private space in which to breastfeed her child or pump milk. Some employers may try to tell an employee that they have to go off-site to feed their child or express milk. Others may tell a worker to use the bathroom or similarly unclean space.

The rights of breastfeeding workers include the right to a private space, whether it is an unused conference room or a vacant office, that isn’t a bathroom. Some employers may deny a lactating worker’s request because they feel like allowing one worker to make reasonable requests will result in a cascade of requests from other workers. However, it’s important for lactating mothers to remember that their right to request time and private space to handle their needs has protection under federal law.